Dube Dube Do: Flames youngster peaking at right time
It’s easy to forget that Dillon Dube is just 23 years old. And that this is his first full season with the Calgary Flames.
Through the first half of this season, he was right up near the top of the list when it came to players people would consider disappointing. He bounced from centre to wing to the pressbox as both player and coach were trying to determine his fit in the lineup.
But his performance since the all-star break is reminding everybody why such high expectations were bestowed on the speedy forward in the first place.
With the regular season winding down and the playoffs just around the corner for the Pacific Division winning Calgary Flames, Dube has been a delight.
Six goals in six games before Tuesday’s contest against the Predators in Nashville.
Seven of his 16 snipes have come in the month of April – when goals are widely considered much harder to come by.
In fact, since the NHL All-Star break, the only Calgary Flames players with more goals than Dube’s dozen are the guys who have hit or are flirting with 40. Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane.
Patience with Dube paying off
The first half of the season was certainly a challenge for the youngest member of the Flames regulars. Head coach Darryl Sutter has said repeatedly that Dube joined the Flames too early and should have seen more seasoning in the American Hockey League.
But the bench boss has also been patient. Aside from a couple of healthy scratches right before the break.
“He’s just a kid. I’ve said it before, there’s lots of these guys who were here before they should have been,” Sutter said after Dube’s two-goal performance in a 6-3 win over Vancouver on Saturday. “He’s his own worst critic and he listens, and I’m good with that.”
Dube’s only NHL playoff experience came in unusual circumstances. He had four goals and five points in 10 games under the COVID Bubble in Edmonton. Only former Calgary Flames playoff stud Sam Bennett scored more in those circumstances.
“I think that was big for me, taking that step,” Dube said Saturday of the playoff history. “But it was obviously a lot different. Having however many months off and coming back and playing in the bubble. And it’s in the past too. You can’t just expect to be a good playoff player because I had a couple good games. And at the same time, we didn’t get to where we wanted to, so obviously I didn’t feel like I performed well enough.”
Elevating his game for the playoffs
As far as this season goes, his answer as to how he’s been able to make such a significant impact down the stretch comes down to commitment.
“I think I just needed to be a lot better for this team going into the final stretch,” he said on the weekend. “To elevate my game to get ready for playoffs.”
The speedy Dube has been playing alongside no-nonsense linemates Calle Jarnkrok and Blake Coleman. They form a trio of dog-on-bone third liners. Not unlike the one Coleman was part of with the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning the past two playoffs.
“You see the talent and everything that he can bring to a game and to a team. It’s nice to see him heat up kind of at the right time here,” Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic told reporters at the Nashville rink on Tuesday morning. “He’s an important player for us, and we’re going to need him to continue to play well moving forward here.”